The Rhine Gorge is often referred to as the ‘Swiss Grand Canyon’, and while that may be a bit of a stretch in terms of comparison, it is an impressive gorge and a great location for hiking. The strange rock formations, cliffs, and blue-tinted water make the Rhine River and the gorge one of the most unique attractions in Switzerland.
There are multiple hiking routes through the gorge but with lots of entry and exit points, as well as a train running through the gorge itself, you have lots of options for your adventure. The hikes can range from a few kilometers to a huge 21-kilometer journey. Many visitors prefer to take a train ride through the gorge or a great option for non-hikers is to enjoy the viewing platform overlooking the Rhine Gorge.
In this blog post, I will detail the best ways to explore and view the Rhine Gorge as well as show you what my adventure looked like as I hiked through the gorge.
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RHINE GORGE HIKE DETAILS – VERSAM TO VALENDAS
One of the most popular routes to experience the Rhine Gorge is to start at the Rhine Gorge viewpoint, where you can find a huge viewing platform with unrivaled views of the gorge. Then you can head down into the Gorge by following the path to Versam and continuing on to Valendas. You finish at the Valendas Train Station where there is an hourly train, so you can catch a train back to your connection. It’s a great 4.6km trail once you are at Versam but the hike down from the Viewing point was my favorite and adds on an extra 4 kilometers to your journey.
If you have the Swiss Half-Card you will receive a huge discount on your tickets. I bought mine when I arrived in Switzerland and it has saved me over a thousand dollars throughout my trip.
I’ve pinned the Google Maps location for the viewpoint below. It is called ‘Il Spir’ and acts as a nice point to start your journey. From ‘Il Spir’, you double back past Haus Flims and follow the path down to the gorge. there is an offbeat path through the forest via a ‘white and red’ marked trail into the canyon near the train crossing bridge.
It’s a bit of a strange route we took but I do really think it is the best route because you get the viewpoint and a nice 5-kilometer hike inside the gorge. Therefore, I have drawn a rough map but it will clearly show you how to go from the viewpoint to Versam to Valendas. The map below shows the start point at Il Spir, it then shows the trail going back to Haus Flims and then through the forest down to the bridge in the Rhine Gorge. It then shows the trail passing through Versam. It cuts off there but you simply continue down the Rhine River until you reach Valendas, which is on the same side of the river and is very well signed.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THROUGH THE RHINE GORGE & THE VIEWPOINT
I actually began my day at Crestasee Lake and then walked through the Forest to Caumasee Lake before continuing on from Caumasee to Il Spir. While it’s not necessary to visit those locations, they are very close to Il Spir Viewpoint and the Rhine Gorge so I decided to combine them all.
I’ll start this recount from the Il Spir Viewpoint as that is where you will most likely start your journey. The Il Spir viewpoint is actually quite a modern design and looks like it belongs to Jungfraujoch or one of the glacier summits. The metal platform gives you an incredible view of the Rhine Gorge and the valley. Make sure to stay up there for at least 10-20 minutes so you can witness a train passing through the Gorge.
The Rhine River has carved its paths through the bedrock between Ilanz and Reichenau. This has created a ravine comprised of incredible stone formations, which are surrounded by palm trees. The milky blue water contrasts against the pine green creating an epic scene.
Once you have finished marveling at the unique rock formations and the expanse of the Rhine Gorge it is time to get down into it! You will need to backtrack (details in above section) to Haus Flims and follow the path and signs to the safe set of switchbacks that lead you through the forest and down the descent into the Rhine Gorge.
The point at which you enter the gorge is actually the bridge the train rolls across. Don’t worry there is a pedestrian path there for safety, but you can stand on the bridge while the train is coming!
Down at water-level, the Rhine Gorge is just as spectacular than when you viewed it from Il Spir. The main difference is that now you are probably one of the only ones around. You have the opportunity to take in the sounds of nature, the rush of the water and the sound of birds. This is one of the main reasons why you should make the effort to come down here rather than on the, often crowded, Il Spir Viewpoint.
As you walk along the trail, sometimes you actually veer away from the river itself. You are still in the gorge but I had expected to walk next to the water the whole way and was a little disappointed to find myself in the dense forest without a view of the gorge. It was still a peaceful walk but for at least half of the mileage to Valendas, we weren’t quite experiencing the river itself as we were inside the forest.
You will reach Versam quite quickly after crossing the bridge. This train is the same one you will take from Valendas so if you have seen enough you can jump aboard and head on out to your connection. The best viewpoint actually comes just before Versam so it’s quite convenient if you don’t want to hike all the way to Valendas.
After this viewpoint within the gorge, you will get to Versam Station. As mentioned you can either jump on the train or continue hiking to Valendas. I decided to continue on for another 4.5-kilometers. To be honest, there wasn’t too much happening in the next 1.5-hours to Valendas. It was peaceful but the epic moments happened at the viewpoint just before Versam. On the way to Valendas, we were often in the forest although it did spit us out a few times right next to the water. It’s a nice walk but don’t necessarily expect something spectacular on the way from Versam to Valendas.
MY SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDES
I spent 100 days hiking in Switzerland and created a guide for different regions around the country. You can click on one of my Switzerland hiking guides below to help you plan your trip.
THE SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDE: 50 AWESOME HIKES IN IN SWITZERLAND: I spent 100 days in Switzerland making this huge guide with all of the hikes I personally explored.
4 AWESOME VIA FERRATA COURSES IN SWITZERLAND: Via Ferrata is a cliff-side climbing route where you are harnessed in. You have to try it at least once!
10 AWESOME HIKES NEAR LAUTERBRUNNEN: Lauterbrunnen is the most picturesque valley in Switzerland and is situated perfectly amidst many famous hiking routes.
INTERLAKEN HIKING GUIDE: 15 AWESOME HIKES IN INTERLAKEN: Interlaken is my favorite town in Switzerland and is the number one hiking base.
12 AWESOME HIKES NEAR GRINDELWALD: A great location to base if you are a keen hiker with lots of hut-to-hut hikes and epic peaks.
7 AWESOME HIKES IN MURREN: Murren is one of the most beautiful towns in Switzerland and is surrounded by great hiking routes.
9 AWESOME HIKES NEAR APPENZELL: My favorite hikes around the Alpstein Region and other peaks near Appenzell.
7 AWESOME HIKES NEAR CHUR: Several beautiful lakes, and incredible gorge hike, and an epic Via Ferrata course.
MY PERSONALIZED SWITZERLAND TRAVEL TIPS
SWITZERLAND BUDGET BACKPACKING GUIDE: In this blog, I talk about the cost of travel and how to travel around Switzerland on the cheap with some tips and hacks from my experience.
20 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: MY SWITZERLAND TRAVEL TIPS: You probably didn’t even think of half of these. I didn’t either and figured many of these tips out the hard way.
MOST IMPORTANT TRANSPORT TIP: SWISS HALF CARD
OPTION 1: Switzerland trains, buses, and cable cars are EXPENSIVE! I found the best way to get around cheaply was to buy the Swiss Half-Fare Card before I arrived. It gives you 50% off every regular train, bus, and even many cable cars. It only costs $150 USD but pays itself off in just a few days with many train tickets in Switzerland costing close to $100 alone. OPTION 2: The second option is to get the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited train, bus, and (many) cable car rides but it’s pretty expensive at around $100 USD per day so if you don’t travel each day it isn’t worth it. OPTION 3: The final option is to get the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass, which allows you to buy 8 days’ worth of transit but you can choose the night before if you want to activate the next day. That way you don’t need to travel every day to get your money’s worth, you can just activate the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass on the days where you are doing sizeable transits. My advice is to book the Swiss Half-Fare Card or the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass in advance before your trip so it’s ready to go when you arrive.